Shrines pop up across city in colorful displays of caring

To find solace, many are drawn to the memorials
2011-01-19T00:00:00Z Shrines pop up across city in colorful displays of caringCarmen Duarte Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 19, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Late at night, astronaut Mark Kelly sometimes finds himself on the lawn in front of University Medical Center.

Left largely alone with his thoughts, he walks through the massive memorial, pausing to read messages left for his wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the other Tucsonans who were shot Jan. 8 at a northwest-side Safeway.

Isaac Saldana, a fourth-grader at Craycroft Elementary School, is among hundreds and hundreds who left a get-well card.

"On the back of the card, taped to the back, was an envelope with his lunch money in it," said Kelly, who would like to return the $2.52 to Isaac.

"It is somewhat hopeful at times, or sad, spiritual when you show up in the morning and there is this young woman with a drum - boom - she's been doing this every morning before sunrise, sitting in the grass."

Kelly said he talked to the woman, who described her presence as a personal vigil.

At four impromptu shrines around the Old Pueblo, a mourning community comes bearing flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and votive candles.

The ever-growing shrines have taken on a life all their own since 19 people where shot Jan. 8 at an event hosted by Giffords at the grocery store at North Oracle and West Ina roads.

People pray, cry and find comfort in each other as they pay tribute to the six - Christina-Taylor Green, John M. Roll, Gabe Zimmerman, Dorwan Stoddard, Phyllis Schneck and Dorothy Morris - who died. They pray for their families to find solace in their faith, and they also pray for the survivors of the shooting spree.

Some also pray for Jared Lee Loughner, 22, accused of the killings, because they believe he suffers from mental illness. They also pray for Loughner's parents.

The most expansive outpouring of faith, hope and love is at UMC, where Giffords is in serious condition and making major strides, according to doctors. One other shooting victim remains hospitalized, in good condition.

Day and night a steady stream of people comes to the lawn - as they do at the Safeway complex where two shrines arose, and Giffords' office at East Pima Street and North Swan Road. They light candles and leave their thoughts on cards, posters, photos and personal art work because, many said, it is something they have to do.

"We wanted to come and see how big this tribute has become," said Dessye Hoer- nig, 19, a UA psychology student. "A tragedy has brought so many people together. It is amazing and yet so sad."

Alice Silvain, 34, a receptionist, and her boyfriend, Alex Camacho, 34, an insurance agent, brought their sons to UMC, where they left a flickering St. Jude candle.

"It's necessary for the children to see how everyone comes together during a tragedy," said Silvain. "Coming here was something we had to do."

Sarah Claussen, a native Tucsonan, is among those who have brought arts and crafts materials to the lawn, an effort that has helped others express themselves.

"What is happening here needs to stay alive," said the 40-year-old Claussen. "This community, this nation needs to live up to our children's expectations about this country."

At the Safeway, Pamela Speder, 37, a business consultant who just returned from a trip to Mexico, brought her 15-month-old daughter, Morgan, to leave a teddy bear.

"My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones, and I will continue to pray for them and those who lived through the tragedy," Speder said through tears. "I just want a better world for my daughter to grow up in, and it takes everyone working together to make it happen."

Kelly said that he took a teddy bear from the UMC lawn up to his wife's room.

All of the stuffed animals will eventually be given to children who need them.

Reporter Tom Beal contributed to this story. Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or cduarte@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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